🐰 Bouncing into the Year of the Rabbit! 🐰

There’s rabbit clothes, rabbit lanterns, rabbit displays and rabbit-everything everywhere!

An abundance of real live rabbits is one of the things I noticed about the UK on my recent visit – they were everywhere, munching away on people’s lawns. Not so here in Taiwan, but hey we’re celebrating the Year of the Rabbit, and with the Lantern Festival officially starting this coming Sunday, expect some more rabbit photos! 🐰 The Lantern Festival has already started in Hualien, where we were this past weekend – the home-painted lanterns are beautiful!

The Light Show was amazing too, shown every half hour during the evening – do check it out here!

Part of the fun of Chinese New Year is that everyone has the week off and many take the opportunity to travel around the country, visiting relatives or just enjoying the break. My good friend, Ah-Guan came from Taichung with another friend and we joined the crowds on Taiwan’s east coast, visiting Rev. Antony Liang and his family, who moved last summer from St. John’s Cathedral where he’d been in charge of the English congregation for the past few years serving his curacy. Now he’s the vicar of St. Luke’s Church, Hualien and settling in really well ~ we were very warmly welcomed by Antony and everyone. The church is small, with about 25 on an average Sunday, and lovely – all green and yellow, and the people so lovely too!

There’s lots to see in Hualien, including walking to Qixing Beach (yes, we really did walk – it took 4 hours!) and visiting the cultural areas of the city – and enjoying the night markets. The wind was incredible on the first day, but after that it was calm and mostly cloudy, which made for comfortable walking…

As happens in many beautiful places, once you learn the history of a place you find a lot of tragedy, and Hualien is no exception. There are military bases all over the area, and fighter jets practicing whenever the weather allows, so the noise is tremendous – just like the Lake District! Antony took us to visit the ‘Hualien Pine Garden’, originally named the ‘Hualien Port Army Military Department’, on a hilltop above the city, within walking distance of the church. The Okinawa Pines were brought to Hualien during the Japanese Era, now all over 100 years old. During World War II, this compound housed the Japanese Military Command, and towards the end of the war, it is said that from here Japan launched its kamikaze attacks on battleships in the Pacific. The kamikaze pilots would spend their last night here, eat their last meal, and in the log cabin, in front of the shrine to the Japanese Emporer, receive some heavenly wine. It is also reputed to be the place where, at the end of the war, the highest-level Japanese general committed suicide rather than surrender. These days it is a museum, also housing the bomb shelter, cafe and art gallery – currently displaying an exhibition of digital art…

Sobering thoughts which contrast with the atmosphere of celebration at this time of the year ~ and the rest of my Chinese New Year was spent eating, drinking and partying, as is usual for everyone in Taiwan at this time of year! I started with a visit to Bishop Lai and Mrs. Lily Lai in Tainan…

Then on my first Sunday back, I was presented with a farewell gift from Rev. Wu – on behalf of Advent Church – of a coffee grinder, a must-have item for a new house here – coffee parties, tea parties all coming up! And with all that caffeine, bouncing into the Year of the Rabbit seems an appropriate phrase!

Then I moved house into Taipei City – but returned to Advent Church for Chinese New Year’s Eve, invited by my good friends, the Tan family…

This was taken at Advent Church on New Year’s Eve…

New Year’s Day was actually a Sunday, which was most appropriate, and Advent Church welcomed Bishop Lennon Y. R. Chang and his wife Hannah to the service too…..

Now I’m now based at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei and so far have enjoyed a nice meal with the Liu family, and 2 tea and coffee house-warming parties, more to come! Thanks to the cathedral dean, Rev. Philip Lin and his family, plus Rev. Joseph Ho and his family for their warm welcome…

Chinese New Year would not be complete without a visit to the Taipei Jianguo Flower Market, located under the overpass not far from Da’An Forest Park, and open at weekends and holidays…

Yes, everywhere is red and gold!

As my new location is not far from Taipei 101 and Xiang-Shan, Elephant Mountain, so we’ve made the most of it, by night and day…

And finally, Chinese New Year would not be complete without the cherry blossom, everywhere is pink! It brightens up a dull day…

And of course on a sunny day it’s stunning!

Enough for now, do keep a look-out for the Lantern Festival coming up, there’s more rabbits to come! 🐰

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